UK: Books - The book that shook.

UK: Books - The book that shook. - I can certainly say that books, in general, are the biggest influence on my life: I read all the time: an eclectic mixture of novels, poetry, history and economics. Forced to choose just one book, I would settle for A G

by HOWARD DAVIES.
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

I can certainly say that books, in general, are the biggest influence on my life: I read all the time: an eclectic mixture of novels, poetry, history and economics. Forced to choose just one book, I would settle for A Glastonbury Romance by John Cowper Powys.

About 20 years ago I read an essay by George Steiner in which he said Powys was the greatest English writer of the century. I was furious: I had never heard of him. But I have come to believe that Steiner was right.

Powys is, for me, the one English novelist who rivals the great Russians in his ambition and breadth. He writes with excitement, romance and humanity about English country towns and their humblest, strangest people.

Since I discovered his novels I have learnt to enjoy my country more and, I hope, not to underestimate those whose first impressions are less than compelling. Powys became, shall we say, a little odd in later life - living in a tiny slate cottage in Blaenau Ffestiniog. But Tolstoy lost a few of his marbles, too, and that is not the only similarity between the two.

Howard Davies is chairman of the Financial Services Authority.

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